Christ's Faithful People
1024 - 1032 AD
At Benedict's death, his brother Romanus, the consul and senator of all the Romans, decided to become pope. Though he was a layman, Romanus was elected. A little influence, a little judicious spending, and the papacy was his. Disgruntled observers remarked that he was senator in the morning and pope in the evening. And indeed there was a hurried conferring of holy orders until sometime in April 1024, Romanus was consecrated pope as John XIX.
Though his accession to the papacy was, to say the least, somewhat irregular, John did not make a bad pope. Unfortunately, however, he was not the man his brother Benedict had been, nor was Conrad II the emperor that St. Henry II had been. During this pontificate the cause of reform suffered a setback. Conrad II, the first of the Salian emperors, came down into Italy in 1026 and the next year proceeded to Rome for coronation. This was an unusually splendid affair, graced as it was by the presence not only of the Pope and Emperor but of King Canute of England and Denmark and King Rudolf of Burgundy. Conrad, an energetic ruler, was too much occupied with consolidating his power to further the cause of reform. Indeed, if anything, he impeded it by his appointments.
A curious incident occurred shortly after John became pope. Envoys from the powerful Eastern Emperor Basil II arrived in Rome and with golden arguments began to press the Pope to grant to the Patriarch of Constantinople the title of Universal or Ecumenical Patriarch and recognize that the Patriarch should have in the East the same jurisdiction the Pope had in the whole world. News of this request spread rapidly, and Western public opinion rose up against the ambition of Constantinople. Pope John, though he may have been inclined to grant the request, finally refused it. The Easterners were furious, and Pope John's name was stricken from their diptychs or liturgical tablets.
Though John was not the fighter against abuses that his brother had been, he did favor the Cluniac monks and grant privileges to monasteries. Then too, he showed good sense in handling appeals. Indeed, in one case he showed more than good sense; he showed true humility. Abbot William of St. Benignus in Dijon wrote to the Pope scolding him for his lack of vigor in carrying on the fight against simony. Pope John thanked him and praised the outspoken monk for his zeal.
John XIX did a little building. He also summoned to Rome Guido of Arezzo, the famous monk who organized the do-re-mi scale. The Pope encouraged the great music reformer and urged him to instruct the Roman clergy in music.
John XIX died probably in October 1032. Though his method of becoming pope was not above reproach, he had not done badly.